Korok: Teenage amputee dreaming beyond carwash business

Korok: Teenage amputee dreaming beyond carwash business

James Koroko washes to make just enough money for his subsistence. [Jenifer James The City Review]

When conflicts struck South Sudan in 2013 and later in 2016 like successive twin blasts, the country’s face that was healing from the decades of liberation scars suffered another setback.

Thousands of people lost their lives, livelihoods and homes and many families were condemned to living squalid life in makeshift settlements in the camps—some outside the country.

James Korok from the Greater Pibor Administrative Area is only 18 years old as of now. But he has been through hell and back. That he lives as an amputee after losing his leg to a cruel bullet during the civil war is enough testament of his grim tribulations.

Korok’s world tumbled in 2013 at the age of seven when he was hit by a stray bullet on the armpit at the height of the country’s conflict the preceded the independence. He also sustained another bullet injury on his leg and that meant that he had to seek immediate treatment in Juba. The health facilities in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area could not handle his medical case.

He says he was lucky to get corrective surgeries where his leg was amputated, against the horrifying aftermath of ridicule and intolerance from society, particularly his peers. But down the years, he has learnt the hard way as a child whose parents are deep in the village as he struggles with the unforgiving life in the streets of Juba.

“I have been homeless since then until now. Life without legs to work around the world is a challenge. Life was not easy, but I chose to challenge the world that I can do it whether with legs or not,” she narrates in an interview with The City Review.

James Koroko washes to make just enough money for his subsistence. [Jenifer James The City Review]

Korok says that he was lucky to get a sponsorship from the Windle Trust Organization, and he continued with his studies until he sat for the Primary Level Examination (PLE) in Uganda in 2020. But since then, he has yet to take steps to proceed with secondary education due to a lack of resources.

“I came to Juba in 2020 from Uganda to look for a better life and see ways of how I can continue with my studies in Juba despite having no relatives to stay with,” he says.

Korok recalls that he found a source of income in washing cars and motorcycles and had opened premises at Tombura Road. But he stumbled upon challenges forcing him to shut down.

He says he was then forced to move a parking bay just opposite the Save the Children organization building in Hai Malakal, to find his footing in the business.

According to Korok, he wakes up early in the morning and begins engaging his crutches to trek from Konyo Konyo to the workplace. Dressed in his brown pair of shorts, and a T-shirt at the time of this interview, Koroko clang to his crutches as he braved the sun heat to clean the parked cars in exchange for payments that he treasures to keep him going.

Korok narrates that he washes an average of three cars per day, which translates into a return of SSP 15,000 a day—money that he spends on food but barely leaves him with nothing to save for rent.

“The place where I am staying now is not safe, and I stay with smokers; they usually ask me to smoke, and if I don’t, they tell me you will never be our friend,” he narrates.

 “I do not want to sleep on the streets, smoke, or drink alcohol since I am an adult and cannot do such things. I am excited about my future, and I want to attain things before I die so that the world remembers me,” he remarks.

“Washing cars is not what I hope for, but all I need is to finish my studies and become a better person in the future. Now that I have given my life to work to feed myself, yes, I want to study, but up to now I don’t have money to go back to school,” he adds.

Korok appeals to the government and well-wishers to support him in achieving my dreams.

“I appeal to the government to consider my condition and help me, because I need to study to have a bright future, and I also appeal to civil society and humanitarian organizations to support me and help me to complete my studies.”